Monday, 20 April 2015

Blade Runner - Why Did Roy Save Deckard?


Blade Runner is a seminal classic for many reasons. Arguably one of the single biggest visual influences on all of cyberpunk to date, it remains a critically lauded film for many reasons: Outstanding imagery and a unique style, layers upon layers of cultural references and genre twists, ideological questions of life, and element which remain in question to this day. The biggest of all of these is the question of whether the protagonist, Deckard, was one of the replicants (androids) built to emulate human memories. One which was built to think they were human, to properly adjust to complex emotions and be more human than human, as the film put it.

The bigger question which looms over the film's end comes in the form of the final conflict between Deckard himself, hunting the replicants, and the last of their number by the name of Roy. Rather than a true fight there's obviously no contest between the two, with Roy himself effectively toying with him throughout the entire battle. Roy seems to be in full swing of his emotions, unfamiliar with them as his short life finally ticks out, yet when the moment comes to finally kill Deckard, he instead saves him. Just as Deckard is about to slip from the rooftop they are fighting on to his death, Roy picks him up and in his last few moments allows him to live, giving the "i've seen things" speech the film is famous for.

Why Roy would actively save the man who killed so many of his close compatriots, especially when he has nothing to live for has been put up for debate. Many elements tend to hinge upon the speech itself, suggesting Deckard to be a witness to his last moments or carry on the few memories he can hope to pass on. Perhaps to even help him understand in some way how those he has killed have experienced far more than anyone stuck on Earth will comprehend, or even just allow his death have some meaning beyond revenge. While there is certainly an element of truth or distinct possibility to these elements, personally I think they hinge too much upon that single moment. Instead consider the film as a whole, Roy's story and the imagery involved.

Roy's entire journey has been to extend his life, to find a way to enhance it further and allow him to truly grow as a person beyond the fleeting moments he has had so far. He has been shown up to this point to be callous when it comes to human life, and is obviously experiencing a rush of complex emotions he was never designed to truly cope with. When he finally comes before his creator, he is told two things: There is no possible way to extend his life as all answers or solutions ultimately result in death, and then following exchange is made:

Tyrell: The light that burns twice as bright burns half as long, and you have burned so very very brightly, Roy. Look at you. You're the prodigal son. You're quite a prize!
Roy: I've done questionable things.
Tyrell: Also extraordinary things. Revel in your time!

He takes this advice as an excuse to truly cut loose at first, killing Tyrell and then showing a far more immature and insane nature as he faced Deckard. Yet in his final moments there is a brief revelation in his eyes, where he comments "Quite the experience to live in fear, isn't it? That's what it is to be a slave." 
Personally, I think this was showing that he was realising that being dominated by his fear or even hatred of Deckard was ultimately a failing when he had been encouraged to be better than him. More than that though, it might also have been a sign that he was experiencing true empathy with a human for the first time, understanding what he was inflicting upon others.

There is yet another element atop of this though. Roy was still striving to be a better human above all else and be superior to them. He had already accomplished this by showing Deckard he outstripped him entirely in terms of physical prowess, but that may not have been enough. Instead, I think he may have been trying to do so by embracing one element Blade Runner's dystopian world had lost almost entirely: Morality. His choice was to die saving the life of another, spending his last few moments to ensure that someone else, a complete stranger and ultimately his enemy, would live on when he could easily have allowed him to plunge to his death.

After all the religious symbolism used in the production, from Tyrell's home to Roy's bare form with a nail stabbed through his hand, it would ultimately fit for him to embrace one religious passage: "Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends."
If this was his act it would give him, in his eyes, final closure. That after so much death, so many atrocities, he could finally turn himself around and prove himself to be the better man in his last moments and overcome what his role in life had set for him. It would be final proof that he had truly accomplished, by his views, something extraordinary.

The idea that this was done in this manner is of course just one idea. Blade Runner has theories upon theories decrypting its imagery, ideas and concepts and there are many out their which hold a great deal if weight. If you have your own thoughts on this, please feel free to leave them in the comments below.

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